Surfing champ Townend honored

Surfing legend and Huntington Beach resident Peter Townend, 60, was honored with a Lifetime Achievement award for his career in surfing. Seen here, he proudly shows off a beer bottle with a 1980s photo of him surfing in Hawaii. Townend was the 1976 International Professional Surfers World Surfing Champion.
(KEVIN CHANG / HB Independent)

Peter “PT” Townend is known as the one of the best surfers of his time. He won the first world surfing championship in 1976 and has been inducted into the Surfing Walk of Fame and Surfers’ Hall of Fame in Huntington Beach.

But the Coolangatta, Australia, native considers the Lifetime Achievement Award he received Saturday in Dana Point to be the most important award he’s received in his surfing career.

He was honored at the Surf Industry Manufacturers Assn. Waterman’s Ball, or what Townend, 60, refers to the Academy Awards of surfing, for his contributions to the surfing community. He has served as the executive director of the National Scholastic Surfing Assn. and currently oversees ActivEmpire, a consulting and brand management company in the surfing and skateboarding community.

“This is not so much about me being the world surf champ, but it’s more about what I’ve really done after being world champ,” he said. “It’s my peer business group more than my peer surfing group.”

Townend currently lives in San Clemente, but he has lived in Huntington Beach beginning in 1979. In 1977, he worked as a surfing double in the movie “Big Wednesday.” He met his wife on the set.

“Pretty much after that, I never went back to Australia permanently,” he said.

Then in 1980, Townend was hired as an executive director of the NSSA but would continue competing in surfing events until 1982. He stopped going for titles because it wasn’t bringing in money like it does today, he said.

“You weren’t Kelly Slater in those days,” he said with a chuckle. “You didn’t make all this money and when you hit 30, everybody said you were too old. We’ll he’s now proved that different.”

Townend was in the publishing industry, working as the associate publisher of Surfing Magazine for 10 years, and later spent eight years doing branding for Rusty Surfboards.

After working as the marketing and events director for Primedia’s Action Sports Group, Townend started ActivEmpire, which represents brands like Hurley and Huntington Surf and Sport.

His other accomplishments include founding in 1998 Surfing America, the national governing body for the sport for amateurs.

“It’s those kinds of things that I’ve done that are why I’m getting that [lifetime achievement] award,” he said. “That makes me feel really good that the work I’ve done since I was a world champ means something.”